Twenty Years in the Life of Mel Gibson's Publicist
1990 "Mr. Gibson," I said as I shook hands with the dashing, young Lethal Weapon star with the piercing blue eyes. "I am thrilled that you've chosen me as your publicist. I swear, your image is in good hands, Mr. Gibson." "Please, call me Mel. And that's all great to hear, Daniel," Mel Gibson said. "I really enjoy what your public relations firm has done, and I think this will be a wonderful relationship. I hope you're up for the challenge of making me seem decent to the public." "All due respect, Mel, but that's no challenge at all. You've got Leading Man written all over you. You're a huge star, you've done brilliant work already and you've got a great career ahead of yourself. You've given me the easiest job in the world. Just don't go saying anything stupid and we won't have a problem, right?" "Oh, I won't. What am I, Irish?" "Ha- Sorry?" "Ahhah, alright, I'm needed on set now. Talk to you soon!" He flashed a grin and quickly exited. He knew my name was O'Brien, it was clearly a joke. Nothing to be worried about. I had the successful, talented and devilishly charming Mel Gibson as my client. Like he said, this was the start of a wonderful relationship. 1991
MEL: Hey, I was just talking. Just talking, and pointing at my butt a little bit. Is that a crime? Should I pretend I didn't say those things? Pretend I didn't point at my butt and talk about poop in an interview? Really, I'm shocked it's even gotten this attention, I was just talking.
DOB: Hey, your beliefs are your beliefs, and whether or not I agree with what you think about homosexuality or, in a larger sense, the delicate and beautiful art of anal sex, the fact is, you feel the way you feel. That's you. It's not my place to tell you what's right. But you've got to know that you're a superstar, Mel. Everything you say will be held up and judged by the public, that's just the awful way entertainment journalism works. You're the same guy you've always been, but your words carry more weight now, so they'll be held up to more scrutiny, because you influence people.
MEL: So what do I do?
DOB: You're a young enough guy. For now, I'd say just toss it up to youthful ignorance. If you apologize outright, everyone will know it's a PR move. You were just speaking your mind, shooting from the hip, as it is your right to do. And you don't want to hurt any gay people, right? You're not trying to get rid of them; it's just not your thing. You were just asked a question and you answered honestly.
MEL: Very 'straight-shooter,' I like it, sounds good.
DOB: Yes. Stand your ground BUT, be respectful when you do so. Don't just be a bully about your point of view, it's a turn off.
MEL: You got it.
DOB: Whoa! Whoa, no. None of that. Try saying… plenty of things that aren't that whenever people talk to you about this Playboy thing which, sure as you're born, they will.
MEL: What do I say?
DOB: Right now? Absolutely nothing. Lay low for a while. In a few years, do some charity work with GLAAD to show that you're not an intolerant or hateful person. And, in general, just… just don't talk about homosexuals, really, ever again. You're just not good at it.
I called up Mel as soon as the December issue of El Pais hit my desk. DOB: Hey, Mel, it's me. Quick question: What, uh…the hell? MEL: Is this about the gay thing? DOB: It is about the gay thing. You were asked what you thought of homosexuals, and that is what you came up with?
Oh, Jesus. Four years after I'd thought we put the whole mess behind us, Mel goes and does a foolish Playboy interview that sets us back. DOB: Mel? Dan here. How are things? MEL: Couldn't be better. DOB: I'll disagree. MEL: Oh? DOB: Just saw the new Playboy, Mel, and I gotta say this is pretty far from the whole "be respectful" thing we talked about. Remember? When we talked about it? MEL: I remember some of that conversation. Yikes, my memory's got more leaks than a Polish submarine. Or, for that matter, a Polish person's brain. And the thing about their womenfolk is that-
DOB: Really wish you hadn't said that, Mel. MEL: Which part? DOB: I don't know, man, pick one. There's not one second of this whole affair that looks good for you. I mean, what the hell? You blamed Jews for every war, you called a cop 'Sugar Tits?' Where is any of this even coming from? I'm trying to support you as your publicist, but man you are not making it easy. MEL: Easy. That reminds me of a joke about Italians. So these two shitheads walk into a grease factory- DOB: You know I'm part Italian, right? MEL: Yeah? Huh. Weird. I guess I just didn't notice your brightly-colored throat dewlap. Must've been hidden in your scales.
"You have got to be fucking kidding-- Ugh, what am I going to do with you, Mel? You are not making my job easy. All of those things you said. To your girlfriend. The mother of your child. You said your girlfriend would get raped and it would be her fault? You threaten to burn her house down? It was all offensive on its own, and then you chose to make it racist,
"You're a famous person, surrounded by fawning admirers and nervous yes-men all day. Loads and loads of people hang around you, but none of them will tell you you're an asshole. You'll do something asshole-ish, and the only thing people will tell you is how to spin your behavior to get out of a bad situation. You've gone so long with no one calling you out on your asshole tendencies that it doesn't even register as a potential outcome to you anymore. The part of your brain that recognizes the possibility that you might be an asshole has withered and died. It's atrophied after years and years of neglect." It was clear a) that he thought that was an actual part of the brain and that b) he could physically see it if he rolled his eyes back far enough. His capacity for comprehending anymore of this conversation was diminishing. "I've thrown a lot at you today, and I know this must come as a shock, because you've been surrounded by blind supporters your entire life. It is likely that you've never been told what an asshole you are, and I wouldn't be surprised if you found it impossible to believe. But it's true. You are a giant, narcissistic, asshole with an inflated sense of entitlement who thinks he can do whatever he wants because no one, in the last 40 years, has told him he couldn't." I put on my jacket and headed for the door. Mel was staring hard at the floor, trying as hard as he could to absorb all of this new and frightening information. I had a little bit more. "Also I think you might be a crazy person. Like, a profoundly damaged person who needs very serious help. You look crazy, you have crazy person thoughts, and you say crazy things that crazy people say and that's… a bad thing." "Not as bad as being Italian," he said, clearly hurt. "Try-tr- try not to eat any bees on the way to the pizza parlor!" "Goodbye, Mel Gibson."
Daniel O'Brien is recently unemployed.